Sunday, April 29, 2012

Organic Gardening and Few Recipes

Aquilegia formosa propagated from seeds from Big Sur

This post is related to food in a way, but I am also in the process of creating a gardening site so I will keep the two creative aspects of my life separated.

Salvia involucrata aka Rose bud salvia propagated by cuttings

I am almost done with my Master Gardener certification, and I am busy applying all I have learned and more.  When we bought the house I live in, the garden was partially landscaped with drought resistant plants, and since then I have been adding a vegetable garden, and more plants in spots where some plants didn't flourish.   Initially I used aesthetic to select plants, and I had lots of failure, now I know why, either the conditions were not right for the plants or the soil wasn't amended well.

Bumble bee, and excellent pollinator

I have been using organic principles, composting, avoiding the use of pesticides, etc, but it wasn't until I heard all the wonderful lectures of the past 18 weeks that I deeply understood the practices of growing organically, and the importance of feeding the soil and maintaining beneficial insects. 

Soldier beetle in action

Insecticides will kill an unwanted pest but also a wide variety of beneficial insects.  Sometimes waiting a little will allow beneficial insects to find the pest, arrive in droves, multiply, and completely rid the plant of aphids. I haven't sprayed insecticides once in my garden, and recently added lots of plants that are beneficial to insects, plants that both feed the predator insects or attract pollinators.  Yesterday I was so excited to see an army of soldier beetles attacking the many aphids on my red russian kale, I also saw a beautiful lacewing and that is a sign that the beneficial insects are hard at work eating away unwanted aphids.   Some insects have a complete metamorphosis, like butterflies, the larva looks nothing like the adult form, so know your beneficial insects and their larval forms so you don't run the risk of killing them.

Bees love this thorny plant, not sure of its name

I am also turning my garden into a mini farm, we already have chickens, and inch by inch I am expanding the vegetable garden in the most sunny spot of the property.  I have added herbs, grow annual vegetables, and also planted some uncommon edible plants like hops, and nettles.  Borage is a wonderful and tasty edible, normally used to attract bees.  It can reseed itself, to the point of becoming invasive, but all I have to do is keep only the seedlings that took in good locations and eat the rest.  A win-win situation.

Stinging nettle, for food and infusions

I love stinging nettles in frittatas, risotto, and stuffed in ravioli, but I also infuse it in boiling water for 5 minutes, steep it for an hours, strain it and drink the water chilled.

Now for few recipes using ingredients grown in a garden...

Borage frittata
Rose geranium lemonade
Pizza with kale and ricotta salata
Kale frittata
Frittata with beet greens

Friday, April 6, 2012

Super Easy Fruit Crumb Bars

I can't believe I haven't posted in a month.  I can't even start describing how busy I have been, I don't even have time to check my favorite blogs, so frustrating!  Work is ridiculously busy since my co-worker hurt her wrists so I am working almost every day to do the morning baking.  I can't seem to catch up with sleep and when I get home there are millions things to do, blogging is the last thing in my mind, sadly.  I am in survival mode when it comes to cooking, so nothing fancy or remotely interesting has been made recently.  I catered a huge party two weeks ago and that was such a big undertaking but it went so well.  I made these bars for the party and they were a huge success, tasty, simple, and super fruity.  They were so good I had to make them gluten free so I could eat them too.  The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted it from

The second time I made them I changed the recipe a little, adding almond meal, but the regular recipe it tasty as well.  I used Jeanne's gluten free mix, and I couldn't tell the difference, I tested this mix in few recipes and it is so wonderful.  Be warned though, these bars are addictive!


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour of Jeanne's GF mix
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or cherries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and line a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, the flour, the almond meal, salt, and baking powder.  Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg, or use an electric mixer. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. 

These bars come together so easily and I used frozen blueberries and small tart cherries.  They store well in the fridge and it is better to cut them in the desired size once chilled.

And now a photo of my new love, my sweet puppy,  isn't  she sweet and adorable?  We couldn't have asked for a better dog. 

Basking in the sun


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